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Trusting Your Internal Guidance System
There was a time, before GPS, smart phones, and the internet, when navigation required prudent planning, a good map, and a passenger capable of reading the map and giving timely directions.
I’m old enough to remember that time very well. I started driving in 1971. So, I really appreciate how nice it is to enter my destination in the map app on my phone and have the voice of the app tell me when to turn, how much traffic there is, the best route, when there is an accident or speed trap ahead, and my estimated time of arrival.
However, despite my appreciation for the technology, it can get a little irritating when the map app doesn’t read my mind or when it hasn’t been updated with the latest detours and traffic signal changes.
Wouldn’t it be great if we had this technology built right in? Imagine having an on-board guidance system programmed with your life’s purpose, your deepest passions, and your true values as desired destinations. Imagine this technology could also provide the guidance you need to arrive at these destinations.
I believe that we do, in fact have this innate wisdom. We don’t have a sweet and sappy voice giving us directions every few minutes to help us to the life we want. Instead, we have thoughts, feelings and impulses that influence our choices and automatic reactions to life.
While we were born with an uncorrupted version of the ‘software’ that informs our internal guidance system, over time, as life unfolds, we corrupt the programming with erroneous beliefs and misconceptions that interfere with the clear guidance that comes from our original equipment.
I believe that, as we lose the clear sense of who we are, we also lose access to our true inner guidance. As we develop beliefs and survival strategies, there is an increasing amount of static and noise that makes it difficult to know where to turn or what to do when faced with the decisions that life demands.
When considering our options, we listen to our thoughts and notice that they rarely agree with each other. If we follow one train of thought, another will pop up to argue with it. Continue to follow the first thought and the second one will hit you with anxiety, impatience, anger, or fear. If it gets painful enough, a third thought (or voice) may set a new destination for relief. That voice will get louder and louder until we just give in and agree to a few drinks after work, smoking a little weed during the week, eating one of the donuts in the breakroom, or bingeing on Netflix all night.
Life can feel like being on a train that goes in circles and never stops. It can feel out of control. It’s easy to believe you have no choices.
You may find yourself scrolling the inspirational and motivational posts on Social Media. You read philosophical quotes with beautiful images as backgrounds. You scroll past ads for weight loss, cool clothing, gadgets, and transformation. You find yourself drawn to posts that agree with your opinions and preferences and scroll past the rest. And you wonder, who are these people who are trying to convince me that life can be good? Who are they trying to fool by suggesting things can be better, should be better?
Life just chugs on as you fall further and further into the illusion of who you have decided you are and what you have decided is and isn’t possible for you.
When you attempt to get off the train, you hear/sense/feel, “Return to the route.” The destination has been decided for you. You feel resigned to the life you must settle for. Nothing else seems possible for you.
What if these doldrums, these toxic cycles of existence feel so bad because you have a purpose that wants your attention? What if feeling resigned and cynical are symptoms of disconnection from your purpose?
And what if there were a way to discover that purpose?
What if, deep under the layers of settling there is a hot fire of passion?
And what if there were a way to let that passion catch you on fire?
What if living a life that doesn’t match what is important to you is supposed to feel bad?
And what if there were a way to align with those values?
What would be possible?
What if you could have a life you LOVED!?
One more “what if”.
What if the only way to find your purpose, your passion, and your values was to
STOP DOING WHAT YOU DON’T WANT TO DO!
You may think I don’t understand. “But I have to live this life! I have no choice!”
Wait, isn’t that the same voice that is saying, “Return to the route?”
You’re not alone. Most people don’t know they have a choice.
What if I told you that you are already doing what you want to do?
What are you doing that you don’t want to do?
“I’m working this crappy job and I hate it.”
Why are you doing that?
“Because I need this crappy job to survive.”
So, you are doing what you want to do. You are surviving and this is the strategy you have chosen.
“It’s not a strategy! I don’t have a choice!”
Really? If you did have a choice, what would you be doing differently?
“I wouldn’t have this crappy job.”
What about surviving?
“I guess I’d get a better job.”
Why aren’t you doing that?
“I’m scared my boss will find out I’m looking for another job and he would and fire me. And what if I try to get a better job and nobody wants to hire me?”
Yes, what if that happens?
“I’d rather just stay where I am.”
So, you are doing what you want to do.
“I guess so”
What would you be doing if what you were doing was the reason you were doing it?
“What do you mean?”
You are working your crappy job to survive. If you could do something that you enjoyed doing, what would that be?
“I don’t know. I’ve never given that any thought.”
Think about it now. What would you love to do?
“I would…I would be a teacher.”
What kind of teacher?
“I love little kids. Kindergarten or maybe first or second grade.”
“No, a Waldorf school.”
If you were doing that, how do you imagine that would feel?
“It would feel amazing!”
How do you feel right now as you think about being a teacher as a possibility?
“It feels amazing. And it feels scary.”
What feels scary?
“I wouldn’t even know where to start. I don’t have enough education. College is expensive. What if I’m not smart enough? What if it’s too hard? What if I go into so much debt for student loans that I would never be able to pay it off? What if nobody wants to hire me? How am I supposed to support myself and my family while I go to school? No, it’s not possible, it could never happen.”
So, because you believe it’s not possible, you keep your crappy job and don’t try. Do I get it?
“Ya, man. You get it.”
Isn’t this what we do? Talk ourselves out of having the life we really want because we can’t imagine a path to that life. We don’t believe we can have it. We don’t want to try because we might fail. We don’t want to take risks.
But what if the fact that we want that life is part of what will help us have that life? What if the life we want points us in the direction of our purpose? What if finding our true purpose is built right in?
I Only Do What I Want to Do
Here’s what I think happens. We forget who we are when we think we need to be someone we aren’t. We put so much energy into becoming who we need to be that forget who we really are.
Once we lose track of who we are, our inner GPS gets corrupted. We forget that we are the ones that determine the desired destination. Instead, who we hope we aren’t and who we try to be to hide who we hope we aren’t set conflicting destinations. This puts us on the train that goes in circles and never stops. We need to get back on track – back on the right track.
My clients and many of the people who know me well have probably heard me say, “I only do what I want to do.” This is a principle I have tried to live by for over 10 years. I developed this idea after over 55 years of doing what I thought I should do and what I thought everyone else wanted me to do. I ended up resentful, discontented, unhappy, and unfulfilled.
It’s true that I only do what I want to do. But some days I forget that I have chosen what I am doing or that my unconscious, automatic programming chooses it. Either way, nobody else is doing it to me. If anything, I’m doing it to myself when I find that I’m not enjoying what I do.
Most of what I do and how I react to life happens because of my programming – what I have accepted as the truth. My programming is made up of my beliefs which are stored in my unconscious. So even if I find myself involved in something that doesn’t align with my interests, values, passion, or purpose, I know that at some level, I chose to be involved.
A good example of this is my participation in an international business networking club a few years back. I paid five or six hundred dollars a year, met weekly and paid for lunch, gave up about two hours of my time each week for years. I did this because I believed that by doing so, I would get business referrals. I almost always dreaded going. But I made myself do it because I believed it was the way to build my business. Interestingly, once I arrived at the meeting, I usually enjoyed it. There was dreading and then there was enjoying. But the enjoying only lasted about 90 minutes a week. The rest of the time I was dreading the next meeting.
If, at that time, you had asked me if I was doing what I wanted to do, I would have said, yes. I wanted to build my business and believed that participation in the meetings would accomplish that. So, I attend the meetings. Of course, it was also true that I didn’t want to do to it. Both were true.
Acknowledging that there is at least a part of me that chooses to be engaged in an activity that other parts of me would rather not be doing puts me back in a position of empowerment.
But I’ve noticed that when I believe the story I tell myself about having to do things I don’t want to do, the enjoying disappears from my life, leaving only the dreading.
I’d rather enjoy more and dread less.
Being in a state of enjoyment provides me with the perspective needed to more accurately discern my passion, my values, and my purpose.
“Return to the route” can be a command from an unevolved and possibly wounded part of myself. Following this command will definitely not get me to my passion, values, or purpose.
“Return to the route” can also be a gentle nudge to follow the empowering and joyful guidance of my true, authentic self.